Name Nicole Collet
Enough to know better
Where are you from
São Paulo, Brazil
A little about your self i.e. your education Family life etc
I come from a family of immigrants, with a French father and a Chinese mother. Following their moves around the world, my brother was born in China, my sister in France, and I was born in Brazil. I have always been interested in language, and mastering Portuguese at a deep level was my way of conquering the country in which I was raised. Poet Fernando Pessoa once wrote that language is the true motherland.
I have a BA in Journalism and an MA in Cultural Management. My first job was at a major Brazilian newspaper, but after a while I decided it was not for me and migrated to the publishing industry. I have worked most of my career with books, from proofreading to editing and translation.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My latest news is that my dream is finally coming true and I’ll be releasing my first novel in February 2016 for Valentine’s Day. It’s entitled RED: A Love Story.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I have always loved writing since my early childhood. My biggest frustration as I grew older was that everyone told me I wrote quite well, but I couldn’t find in myself inspiration to create stories. I thought I was incapable of that. Writing was an outlet for my frustrations in life, though, so from time to time I tried my hand at creating stories. It always brought me incredible happiness and fulfillment.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I wrote my novel in 2013. It had started as an unfinished short story seven years earlier. When I decided to finish it as a way to vent my dissatisfaction with my day job, there was so much within me waiting to be expressed that my short story turned into a novel. I wrote it in Portuguese and decided to post it on Wattpad, the world’s largest online reading community, where anyone can post and read stories for free. It’s supported by the great Canadian writer Margaret Atwood. I posted an English version of RED there, and within two weeks it was on the site’s Hot List, steadily remaining on the list for the next two years. When I started getting positive feedback from real readers all over the world, I realized I had a readership. I will never forget the first comment RED received from an English girl who said my writing was “unbendable gold.” That helped me dispel my self-doubt and keep going. Of course, it was my very first draft, and among many positive comments I received negative comments as well, which gave me pointers to adjust and polish my story.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I liked the idea of a student with a crush on her teacher. My hero was inspired by two high school teachers I used to have a crush on. I wasn’t really thinking consciously when I wrote my novel, but I wanted to write a different kind of love story, going deeper into the characters’ emotion rather than just describing it, and sending out a message of love and equality free of the conventional male and female roles.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
My writing is poetic, with a dreamy quality at times. My love scenes focus on sensations and feelings. They are quite graphic, yet I don’t use a single vulgar word nor do I name any genitals. It’s not purple prose either. I aim to transport readers to a world of sensuality, adventure and emotional connection. As for the other scenes, they range from drama to humor and suspense, as I like to vary the mood—that reflects how real life is.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I love red, and when I researched its symbolisms, I was fascinated. It’s the one color that encompasses extremes such as love and hate, pleasure and pain, translating the richness of human emotions. The same color that signals temptation also warns to the forbidden. The same color red indicates life and death: the blood inside the body is life; outside it, it’s death.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
French philosopher André Comte-Sponville wrote a fascinating book about virtues and placed love as the highest virtue of all because it’s unconditional. I support that notion. However, I don’t support the notion that love conquers all and will solve all problems in your life. What conquers all is you: when you learn to know and accept yourself, when you follow your own self and look for happiness within you rather then in another human being, that’s when you become whole and are ready to love at the fullest.
RED is amoral in the sense that it’s non-judgmental. It sends out a message of love, mutual respect, equality and freedom. My hero Marco says to his beloved Marisa: “I don’t own you neither do I believe in cages.”
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
As much as possible. Readers tell me they see the characters as real people and grow to love them. My characters are complex and come in many shades.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Absolutely. Included in the story are episodes I’ve lived and things people told me. Many times they’re not exactly like the real events, and that’s how it’s supposed to be: when you’re telling a story, the important thing is if it works and engrosses the reader, not how truthful to reality it is.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
The Grimm Brothers tales, which were the first books I’ve ever read when I was ten. The Lord of the Rings trilogy transported me to a wonderful, magic world that I will never forget, and which I have revisited many times. Dostoiévski’s novels, with their rich portray of characters. Nabokov’s Lolita, with his amazing command of language and breathtaking imagery and metaphors. Orlando by Virginia Wolf, a goddess of a writer. I also like many other works, including magical realism and Brazilian poetry. As long as it’s good, I’ll read it.
A mentor, so to speak, was storytelling guru Robert McKee, who opened my eyes to the essence of storytelling. I read his book Story, which is a joy, and attended his four-day seminar.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’ve been jumping here and there, reading wonderful short stories from authors I’ve met on Twitter: Terry Tyler, Maria Nestorides and Nicholas John Greenfield. I highly recommend their works. I’m reading Juniper Tree by Barbara Comyns, a gem. And also 59 Seconds, a fascinating neuroscience book by Richard Wiseman.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I’ve read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and was quite impressed by the quality of her work.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
RED is a standalone novel, but since readers loved it, I decided to use the same characters on an idea I had for my next novel. I started writing the first draft of RED 2: Mirrors. Just like RED, it explores the possibilities of relationships, of falling in and out of love. In this case, mirrors are our loved ones who give us a reflection of ourselves and help us on our journey of self-knowledge. Mirrors also relate to the situations life puts us through, making us swap roles: one day you hurt, the next you are hurt, and only when you change positions you are able to truly understand a feeling and grow as a human being
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I have wonderful friends who support my work. Wattpad gave me an amazing opportunity to discover myself as a writer and progress. And my publisher, Something Or Other, believed in my novel—that made all the difference.
A person I am very grateful for is Debra Pickett. She’s the author of a great novel set in Africa entitled Reporting Lives. A former columnist of The Chicago Sun Times and contributor to CNN, she doesn’t even read much romance; yet she read my novel and endorsed it without knowing me. I felt blessed.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Writing is the only thing in the world that makes me truly happy and fulfilled.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. I made a lot of mistakes when I first started writing it, but it was all part of the process. As I educated myself, found inspiration in other books and in life, my novel took shape and gained color. It’s not perfect and will never be. But I have put so much work and love into it that I know it’s the best I could come up with. I’m pleased and proud of it.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Since I was very little. I loved reading and writing. I’m in love with words, and I try to vary my vocabulary as much as possible, so to keep words alive and the text interesting. The more words you know, the more access to abstraction you gain. Moreover, when words are not used, they sink into oblivion and become fossilized in dictionaries. That saddens me.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I think I’ve covered some of that when I mentioned RED 2. My second novel will explore emotions from a different angle, and with a different kind of intensity. Just like in RED, there’s a major plot twist hidden in plain view.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I find it hard to immerse myself in scenes where arguments or physical fights take place. I find them a waste of time, but I force myself into those scenes. They require a few passes to be round up to my liking.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I’m always in awe when a writer comes up with beautiful prose. Tolkien, Virginia Wolf, Nabokov, Mario Vargas Llosa, Isabel Allende, there are so many of them… But I think Nabokov was the one who really made my jaw drop. Tolkien too, with his descriptions of the Middle Earth. Here, let me share one of my favorite:
“Gems and crystals and veins of precious ore glint in the polished walls; and the light glows through folded marbles, shell-like, translucent as the living hands of Queen Galadriel. There are columns of white and saffron and dawn-rose, Legolas, fluted and twisted into dreamlike forms; they spring up from many-coloured floors to meet the glistening pendants of the roof: wings, ropes, curtains fine as frozen clouds; spears, banners, pinnacles of suspended palaces! Still lakes mirror them: a glimmering world looks up from dark pools covered with clear glass; cities, such as the mind of Durin could scarce have imagined in his sleep, stretch on through avenues and pillared courts, on into the dark recesses where no light can come, And plink! A silver drop falls, and the round wrinkles in the glass make all the towers bend and waver like weeds and corals in a grotto of the sea.”
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No. But I definitely use settings that I know. RED is set in my hometown in Brazil, São Paulo, and in San Francisco, US, where I’ve lived for ten years.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The gorgeous cover for RED was designed by English artist Eleanor Bennett. I chose one of her photos, cropped it, and she did the magic. The title font is just beautiful, and she applied subtle lighting effects. The cover shows a red butterfly, symbolizing transformation. I wanted to have an unusual cover because my novel is unusual, so I steered away from half-naked bodies, high heels and the likes.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The first draft is the hardest because you’re creating everything out of thin air: people, places, dialogue, plot. The second hardest thing is solving problems in the story or in the prose. I would spend a lot of time stuck in a sentence trying to eliminate a cliché, for example. Or trying to make a description or dialogue stand out strong.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I’ve learned absolutely everything, as I knew nothing about writing fiction, let alone in a language other than my mother tongue. In the process, I was also forced to face my own emotions as I immersed myself in uncomfortable scenes. It was the only way to make them true though. When you plot, you tell the story from an outsider point of view. When you immerse yourself, you tell it from a insider point of view. It’s surprising how that can change the direction of a scene—and always for the better.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Educate yourself. Learning never ends. Try to do the best you can. Be open and humble, but ultimately follow your guts. Rules exist to organize things, but also to be broken. If everybody followed the rules all the time, then everybody would write the same way. It would be utterly boring.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You made me a writer.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales Volume 1, a beautiful book with a red, embossed hard cover, from a collection of ten volumes. I have it to this day.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Love, experiencing different things, art, intellectual pleasures, nature. I love beaches and waterfalls, and I love summer.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Maybe J. R. R. Tolkien. Or an illuminate being.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
That doesn’t really concern me. I don’t think it’s relevant to me.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Hiking, dancing, swimming. I love animals.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I haven’t watched TV in a long time. I like intelligent comedy, like Seinfeld, Frasier and Monk. I enjoyed the first five seasons of Dexter. I was enthralled by Breaking Bad—which doesn’t have any ingredient that interests me, from the protagonist’s illness to the drug trade, but it’s just so clever and artful, I absolutely loved it— and I really enjoyed BBC’s The Fall. A wonderful HBO series that I’ll never forget is the magical Carnivale.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors / Music
Indian, Japanese, Thai, French and Brazilian food. Red and turquoise. Indie rock, electronica, world music and classical.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Be a traveler.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Yes: http://nicolecollet.com/.com. It has a book trailer and fun quotes from RED, as well as sample chapters of the novel.
Pre-orders include a free ebook with a fun story specially designed to have the feel of a real book. It’s entitled Mr. Million Meets his Match, featuring a mix of steam, suspense and humor. Readers love it, and the ebook includes a bonus chapter.